Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Thinking About My Old Age October 29, 2012

The question often seems to come up of, “What’s going to become of me when I’m old? Who’s going to take care of me if I don’t have children?” It’s a question that rattles around in my brain more often than I’d like, and my answer is always the same: “I have absolutely no idea.”

Given that my husband is 15 years my senior and my family lives on a different continent, I am facing the statistically real possibility that I will be someday be alone with no blood relatives within a 6,000-mile radius of me. I’m thinking that as long as I remain physically and fiscally fit, I’ll get long well enough. I have friends and interests, not to mention a job that doesn’t tie me to any particular geographic location, so I could choose to move closer to my family if that’s what I wanted to do.

But what happens if I’m not healthy, either physically or fiscally? What happens if I need care that I can’t afford to pay for and there’s no one around who gives enough of a damn to look after me? What will become of the poor, impoverished, childless widow then?

These are the thoughts that pop into my head, and honestly, it’s depressing. If I allowed these thoughts to take hold, it could be paralyzing. I could see myself planning for this possibility, saving every penny for my future healthcare and frantically collecting friends in the hopes that, in my time of need, one of them will be a friend indeed. I could see me putting my current life on hold for the sake of avoiding a future life alone, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to get all Pollyanna about this. I am thinking about this future possibility. I am trying hard to keep myself healthy, I’m nurturing my friendships, and I’m trying to be smart about my finances. But I’m not looking at my friendships with an eye as to who will take care of me (that would be weird, for one thing) and I’m not living now for the possibility of my future, because it might not happen that way.

Anyone who’s ever made plans for the future and then watched them fail to come to fruition (is that anyone here?) knows that life has no guarantees. Yes, statistically I should outlive Mr. Fab and someday be alone, but in reality I might not. Yes, theoretically people with children will be taken care of in their old age, but if you’ve ever visited a retirement home, you’ll know that’s not a given either. In fact I wonder if people with children aren’t sometimes more alone because their friends assume their kids are visiting and taking care of them? As a friend, I am more likely to step in to help a friend who doesn’t have family than one who has a partner and family close by. Likewise, I hope that my friends will be there for me, when needed.

So yes, I’m aware that I may need a plan for the future, and I am thinking about what my options might be. But there’s no way of knowing what my future will be, so I don’t want to fritter away my present worrying about it.

P.S. After writing this post I came across the image above and it made me laugh. Who knows, 40 years from now I could still be sitting here blogging about how to get along without children. Hopefully by then I’ll have it all figured out. 🙂

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9 Responses to “Thinking About My Old Age”

  1. Amel Says:

    I can relate to this post. My side of the family is Indo and here I am living in Lapland. The questions pop into my head every now and then as well and I’ve reached a similar conclusion. Financially I’m trying to save money in case I need some helper a few times a week if I get to be so old and can’t do things on my own too well anymore. Physically I also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle though I do indulge myself every now and then. Mentally I try to be like my Mom who says to her kids, “I’m not afraid of living alone in my old age.” But you’re right…other than those kinds of preparation, let’s just enjoy the present! 😀

  2. wartica Says:

    I agree; if you take care of yourself–on all levels of your being–from a young age, you’ll never feel, or act , old:))

  3. Nicole Says:

    Hey Lisa,

    What a fantastic post. I felt as if I had written it myself. From all the worries that come with a life without children this is not that bothers me the most. Everything else is easily outweighed by the benefits and freedom I enjoy and plan to keep on enjoying.

    As I am a translator, could I translate this post and publish it in my blog, mentioning, of course, your name and inserting a link to your blog?

    I have the feeling we are not the only ones worrying about this and I think my readers too could benefit from your fantastic insight on this subject.
    Kind regards,

    Nicole

  4. Maria Says:

    This is one thing I don’t worry about too much. I am a very independent person and I have never wanted anyone to take care of me. So I know that I will take care of myself as long as I am able. If I’m unable to take care of myself, I know I will feel the same way about it whether its a family member or a stranger helping. My plan is and has been to eat right, exercise, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, etc. so that I can take care of myself as long as I can. And work on being able to let go when there is no value left to living. I have people in my life that genuinely care about me and I think they will be there to say goodbye — but I don’t want them to change my diapers.

  5. IrisD Says:

    None of us knows what the future brings, and hopefully we will not be faced with a paralyzing/incapacitating illness, that makes us fully dependent on others. Most of the older people I know that live on their own, including my 84 year old aunt, are more active and generally healthier. Some parents I know have grown accustomed to relying on their children to do most things for them, and I think consequently this has adversely affected their health and level of activity, and even happiness. Nowadays, children often move cities, states, even continents away from their parents, and then raise families of their own. Most may not be around the corner when their parents need them. My husband is 14 years older, and in pursuit of a PhD that has yet to reap financial benefits, I went into debt via student loans. So I worry about my future finances quite a bit. Hopefully, I’ll get that under some control within the next year or so, and start investing in long term healthcare, keep eating healthy and exercising and enjoying my life now because none of us knows what the future holds.

  6. IrisD Says:

    I thought this would be an interesting read for all here. “One of the things I think I owe to that early unhappiness, it was a hard lesson, was that I learned that I could be alone,” she said. “I can. I like my own company.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/11/books/11athill.html

  7. Klara Says:

    dear Lisa,
    Your post reminded me on an old professor that I had on University, who loved to teach some wisdom do his young students. He often said:

    “Do not worry about the things that are waiting for you in 6 months, 1 year or even further away. Just live for now and try to solve each problem as it comes, the best as you can. Life is so unpredictable that is does not make any sense to worry too much in advance.

    The translation is not that good, in original version it sound much better.

    Anyway, whenever I start worrying for long distance events I always remember on my old, wise professor. And then I am calmer.

  8. Illanare Says:

    I spent months worrying about this last year after my partner left. I lost sleep over it, in fact. But I do have a large extended family so I know that in reality, I’ll be at least looked in on every day.

  9. Nicole Says:

    This is definitely something on my mind too. My family is spread around the globe but I am the furthest away and have no relatives in driving distance) and I do wonder who will visit me should I find myself in a care home in the future.
    My gran spent the last few years of her life in a care facility suffering from Alzheimers and ended up bed-ridden. She didn’t know who she was or where she was. Her children had to make sure that she was being looked after (and also take her to doctor etc for minor medical issues that wouldn’t be addressed in the facility). The saddest thing for me though was knowing that she wouldn’t ever see her sister again. Neither of them was capable of flying.
    My main worry though is what will happen if I am mentally unable to make any decisions like my gran. Who will look out for my interests then?


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